Southern Africa: Editor's Memo - Poll Roadmap, SADC Spot-On

AT a time when unity government protagonists are bogged down in the marathon constitution-making exercise negotiations at the expense of other equally important reforms, the latest Sadc resolutions were spot-on concerning the roadmap to elections next year.

A communiqué issued after the Sadc Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government recently held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, insisted the Global Political Agreement (GPA) must be fully implemented before elections.

"Summit urged the political stakeholders in Zimbabwe to fully implement the GPA," the communiqué read. "Summit also urged the political stakeholders to finalise the constitution-making process, including a referendum, before the holding of the elections in 2013."

While questions linger over Sadc's effectiveness in dealing with the Zimbabwean imbroglio, its position and persistence is critical and progressive.

Amid President Robert Mugabe and his party's insistence on elections without reforms, re-affirmed at the Zanu PF annual conference held in Gweru last weekend, Sadc said Zimbabwe must simply follow the GPA roadmap.

Zanu PF resolved the constitution-making process must be done by Christmas, failing which Mugabe should "issue the relevant proclamation dissolving parliament and fixing a date for the holding of the harmonised elections under the current constitution".

The fixation with the much-delayed constitution-making exercise, which smacks of a grand Zanu PF design to keep the MDC formations preoccupied with the issue neglecting other pertinent GPA deliverables while time flies, appears to be part of a wider nefarious plot to derail the process towards free and fair elections.

Sadly, the MDC parties appear to have relegated other key issues to the backburner while they quarrel with Zanu PF over the constitution-making process which they were warned from the beginning was going to be a flawed and messy exercise.

The constitution-making process is but one of many signposts towards free and fair polls. While a new constitution is crucial, the MDC parties have clearly lost sight of the bigger picture; they can't see the wood for the tress, as it were.

Equally key to credible elections are, among other issues, the staffing of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, media reforms, state of the voters' roll and security sector re-alignment.

These and other reforms should be the main concerns of the MDC groups, civil society and the nation in general, not the role of principals in the constitution-making process which is just a distraction.

The MDC formations have allowed themselves to be sidetracked by peripheral issues such as who between Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and MDC leader Welshman Ncube is the de jure party leader or GPA principal, and the principals' role in the constitution-making endeavour.

In an exclusive interview with this paper last month, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the principals had revisited the National Security Council -- a neglected GPA creation -- which needed reconvening to deal with the contentious security sector reform as we go towards elections.

Among issues on the table were operational matters such as the role of the security sector in elections, he said.

We need to know when, or if, this meeting will be held since the military has been critical in keeping Mugabe in power through vicious and bloody campaigns, especially during the 2008 presidential poll run-off.

As we have consistently reported, the military is on the ground campaigning for Mugabe and his party.

This is what the MDC parties must be dealing with.

As Sadc leaders said, diversions must not be allowed. Keeping eyes on the ball is the name of the game.

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